I've been camping and hiking separately before, and besides SERE training for my job, I haven't actually done a whole lot of backpacking. I finally have what I think is a good set-up to start with (We're doing day hikes and camping in the St. Francis NF in the Ozarks, nothing too crazy,) but can't decide on what the best water solution will be. I have emergency iodine tablets, but would prefer a filter of some kind. I want something light and portable, but something that can filter into my own water bottle, or other peoples' if they have a problem with their water sources. I looked at some of the collapsible water bottle, and life straw bottle caps, and I'm not sure if those are what I'm looking for.
The Katydyn Pocket Water filter would be my ideal, but I can't really afford a 350$ filter after my couple of months of stocking up on other backpacking supplies... Are the cheaper Katydyn models good? Should I just get a lifestraw water bottle even though they're very ugly?
The Platypus gravityworks seems like a decent choice. Less expensive and very light. If you have a decent source of water nearby you can even set it up at your camp site as a shower or washing station. Seems like a versatile option to me. Biggest downside would probably be if you're more on the go, since it takes a small amount of time to set up and filter water. Good luck.
In US back country water bourne viruses are not generally an issue and the Sawyer Squeeze or the Katadyn BeFree are common choices. These remove bacteria, cysts and protozoa.
For various reasons the BeFree is probably the better choice for shorter trips where the Squeeze is better for longer trips like section or thru hikes. But it is a matter of preferece. For both but particularly the Squeeze I recommed usinc a CNOC Vecto dirty water bag.
You should carry a backup. Its ok as a backup but I don't recommend Iodine. Apart from the taste its not that good for you in quantity. Use AquaMira or PUR or AquaTabs instead. These will kill vituses if you suspect a particular water source you have to use.
You can of course boil water but that is generally inconvenient, does not remove particulates and requies carrying a pot and either fuel and stove or firebuilding which is ofter not allowed.
Many use disposable warter bottles as water containers. SMART water bottles are particularly popular and can work with the Squezze as a dirty water bottle. The flat bottles can be useful for backup or extra capacity if you have a long carry or want to dry camp.
Great feedback! The Katydyn BeFree looks to be the best option for the length and difficulty of my trip, and I was looking at it, but a collapsible water bottle just seems like it would be so fragile. My inner utilitarian just wasn't sold on it.
If you go with the BeFree I recommend carrying a spare "squeeze" bag.
Either a HydraPak ...REI sell this one but I think there are other sizes available.
or the CNOC Vecto 42mm
I would use the CNOC the primary squeeze bottle, You can buy just the BeFree replacement filter to use with these aftermarket bags...
Personally I use the Squeeze with a CNOC and SMART water bottles adapted for gravity feed.
...and I only use the included Sawyer flat bottles as backup extra water carry. Otherwise I would prefer the Evernew flat bottles but they cost money. I understand their threads fit the Sawyer where the Platypus flat bottle threads don't but I haven't checked this myself.
You can use any disposable water bottle to carry water but SMART and bottles like them fit the threads on the Sawyer Squeeze making the filter more field serviceable than the BeFree. This is the main reason the Squeeze is a better long hike filter.
The BeFree has better flow and the wider 42mm thread makes the squeeze bag easier to fill out of the box. Why it is better for shorter or more casual trips. You have to get a CNOC or futz with a scoop with the Sawyer.
I believe you can patch pin holes in the bags with tenacious tape but I have never had to test this.
I was actually checking out the Sawyer Squeeze after @SolaceEasy recommended it, and I think that might be what I go with. I like the interchangeability with other bottles you referenced, I like that small design, and it seems like it will last me a while with the level of use it will see with me, if I take care of it appropriately. It seems to have all the qualities I'm looking for. Thanks!
Sawyer is inexpensive, perhaps the most commonly used in the Sierras, and somewhat trouble free. It also meets the criteria you set out. And you can buy it in Walmart all over the US.
I have the Sawyer Squeeze and CNOC combo and typically do relatively short section hikes (5 to 30+/- miles) and have been very happy with it. I use Smartwater clean water bottles.